I didn’t want to like it when I saw it launch. In fact, I really wanted to hate it simply because asking people to pay over RM6,000 for a smartphone with a Snapdragon 710 processor and a screen that doesn’t even push a Full HD resolution, is absurd. Flat out ridiculous, if I may be so brazen. But, after spending a brief time with it, I will give the Motorola Razr one thing: that folding mechanism is a thing of beauty.
Now, before you get all hot and bothered by my title, let me just say that in the context of this article, best doesn’t also mean “most durable” or “most reliable’ or “least likely to turn into a waste of money”. It means it’s my favourite, and if that makes me seem conceited…then I guess I am because dayum that phone folds well.
Of course, I’m not claiming to be a folding smartphone expert, but I have had the privilege of folding (and unfolding) two of the top dogs in the folding smartphone world right now: the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X. And they felt good to me, at the time. The Mate X’s falcon wing hinge was sturdy and robust, and it had a locking mechanism that released the screen so it was easier to unfold.
The Galaxy Fold, on the other hand, I thought clicked a little better. There was a satisfying finality to snapping that phone shut, and in my time with Samsung’s baby, that hinge was very smooth.
However, after spending a hot minute with the Motorola Razr, I came to the realisation that none of those felt quite as nice as this flip-phone wannabe. The Mate X, while sturdy, required a little more effort than I would have liked to close the screen. Samsung’s, on the other hand, while very smooth, always had an unnerving looseness to the hinge mechanism that would cause both halves of the phone to move around when it was folded shut.
I didn’t get any of that from the Moto Razr that was on display. The flip action was like butter, and unlike the other two phones, you can easily flip it open with one hand. Snapping it shut had that same satisfying click as the Galaxy Fold, but you don’t have to deal with the “smartphone thigh gap” because of the way the Razr tucks the screen in the hinge. It folds perfectly flat and that’s just such a joy to see.
Oh, and when it’s shut, the Razr’s panels don’t move around either–there’s just no give in the hinge that I could feel. And keep in mind, this was a demo unit that was attached to the wall of the Lenovo booth in one of the busiest tech shows of the year. I can only imagine the amount of abuse this phone has been through already, and yet it’s still holding up so well.
And you’ll need it to hold up well because unlike the Mate X and Galaxy Fold, you don’t have a fully functioning display that you can use on the lid of the handset. It’s a tiny gOLED panen with an 800×600 resolution that you can only really use to view notifications, take selfies and control your music playback. That means you’ll need to flip the thing open all the time. There’s no “oh let me preserve the hinge by using the front panel”. So it needs to be good, and as far as I can tell from my brief hands on, it absolutely is.
Obviously, having what I think is the best hinge mechanism I’ve used so far doesn’t automatically erase the rest of the Razr’s shortcomings. That main screen still only pushes a resolution of 2142×876 pixels, which is not really what you’d want to see on a RM6,000 smartphone. I will say that the low resolution isn’t immediately noticeable, and where the Razr earns points is in the fact that the panel doesn’t have the crease that the Galaxy Fold suffers from. The inner layer is still very soft, and if you push on it there is some give, but I think they did a pretty good job at ironing everything out.
What I never realised before, however, was how much that protruding (and iconic) chin at the bottom got in the way of you using the smartphone. If you’ve used and Android phone before you’ll know that all the controls are at the bottom. On normal Android devices, the chin is just a smooth surface, but on the Razr, you have to deal with the big chunky thing getting in your way when you have to pull up the controls or just use them in general.
I never quite got used to it, and I suspect that this won’t be any better to use when people start switching to gesture-based controls either.
I was also surprised at how chunky the Razr is when it’s folded. It’s wide and thick almost like a supersized tamagotchi and that takes a bit of getting used to if you’re more familiar with the wafer thin (and tall) form-factors of conventional devices. But I don’t necessarily think that it’s a detriment, and the phone definitely fits better in your pocket because of it.
That said, what I’m most excited about is to see this thing hit the market. To see it in the hands of the consumers because that’s when you can really see what works and what doesn’t. But, as you may have heard, the Razr is the latest folding phone to get delayed, and we don’t have any word on when (or if) this phone will make it into Malaysia. Especially with how little of a presence Motorola has in our country right now.
Oh, and yeah the RM6,000+ price tag will probably put some people off too. But, it is what it is if you want to be on the bleeding edge. And right now there’s not much that’s more bleeding edge than this.
Photography by Rory Lee on the Sony A6600.